What We Talk About When We Talk About Attention

July 31, 2015 Chris Spann

happy employees-credit: hubspotIt’s 9 AM on a Monday morning, and you’re sitting in the conference room just trying to stay awake. Your boss is reviewing the company’s goals for the quarter, and you get an e-mail marked urgent. Simultaneously, your cell phone goes off, vibrating ferociously and prompting an obvious disturbance.


Let’s face it: you’re only human, and only one of these messages is going to earn your attention.

What not everyone may realize is that the meeting you just sat through costs your company an average of $338 in employee salary, and 63% of those meetings had no planned agenda. Holding your employees attention might seem trivial, but it could save you a fortune, and help you achieve maximum employee engagement.

Before you can motivate your employees, you need to grab their attention. Learning to capture people’s attention is trickier than it might seem. Mastering this skill can increase your office’s efficiency, and bridge communication gaps.

When we talk about attention, we’re talking about the nine second average attention span of an American in 2015, recently usurped by the goldfish (ten seconds). During These brief 9 seconds your employees decide how much cognitive attention to give your message.

So how can you capture your employees attention? The Heath brothers wrote an incredible resource where they suggest 6 easy ways to reach your audience:

1. Keep it Simple

Explain it in a sentence. What’s the one thing you really want to communicate to your employees or coworkers? Explain your idea such that someone outside your office could easily understand it. As a rule of thumb – if your employees don’t understand it, there’s a good chance your customers won’t either.

2. Unexpected

Don’t be afraid to shake things up. Start your presentation with a trivia question, or a joke to capture your employees attention. Even occasionally changing the physical location of your gatherings can be enough to hold people’s attention.

3. Concrete

Relate your ideas to things people can see and touch using examples and analogies. Instead of saying ‘we need to improve our strategy’ be specific by saying ‘we need more people to fill out our online forms’, and relate the user experience to the real world.

4. Credible

Your employees need to trust you if you’re going to hold their attention. You don’t necessarily need to be the world thought leader on your subject, but you do need to convey authenticity. Too many of us (myself included) fall into the trap of telling people what we think they want to hear. Give your audience some credit, and speak to them honestly.

5. Emotional

When push comes to shove, why does your company do what they do? Perks.com offers custom incentive platforms, but we do what we do to improve the lives of the american workforce. Find ways to remind employees of the benefits they provide to real people. It’s easier for employees to emotionally attach to human beings than abstract concepts.

6. Story

Tell a story about the people who interact with your business and the people inside of it. It’s easier to remember big ideas when there is a journey or a real life parallel to map it onto.

Now, admittedly some ideas are going to be inherently more exciting than others. Getting employees excited about data entry, weekly meetings, or expense reports can sometimes be a tall task. However, using these techniques can help you communicate the grander purpose of the task and make your goals more salient to them. Follow these steps, and you just might hold your audience’s attention.

Check out our other resources!


[1] Attentiv: America Meets a Lot http://attentiv.com/america-meets-a-lot/

[2] Anna Gosline Bored to Death: Chronically Bored People Exibit Higher Risk-Taking Behavior http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-of-boredom/


[3] Leon Watson Humans have shorter attention span than  goldfish, thanks to smartphones http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11607315/Humans-have-shorter-attention-span-than-goldfish-thanks-to-smartphones.html


[4] Chip & Dan Heath Made to Stick (2007)



About the Author

Chris Spann

Christopher Spann is a Graphic Designer, Content Writer, and Marketer for Perksww.com

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